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January 2009
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March 2009

Law Students Having Trouble Getting Bar Loans

Bad news for law students.  I wonder how this will affect bar passage rates?  Law schools, obsessed with U.S. News rankings, cannot afford to have students failing the bar because those students can't afford to study properly for the bar. 

Hopefully more wanna-be law students will be denied law school loans.  Law school is, for the majority of students, a bad life decision - maybe the worst life decision most 23-and-24-year olds will ever make.  Maybe the credit crisis will end the expensive three-year break from real life that law school is.  Go find yourself in the Peace Corp, or the Army, or on Wall Street, or anywhere else that doesn't make you pay six figures to "figure things out."

Even poor students who really want to go will find a way.  I went to a lesser-ranked law school for scholarship money. (I still have plenty of loans, but they're not six figure's worth.)  Luckily, I had no undergrad loans, because my college was paid by the National Guard (well, you suckers/taxpayers reading this, actually; thanks for the socialism!), and I also got GI Bill money and worked 20+ hours a week waiting tables. 

Life involves sacrifices.  I made (and am still making) mine to get what I want out of life.  Why shouldn't others do the same?  Oh, that's right: By virture of being born in a first-world country you deserve everything people give you.

Discovery and Metadata

Good article in the Connecticut Law Tribune about a right to discover metadata.  I've long argued (with no success) that metadata should be available in criminal cases, under Brady v. Maryland.  Any document produced by police departments gets invariably more inculpatory, i.e., the last draft of a search warrant or witness statement will cast the defendant in a more negative light than earlier drafts. 

Might an earlier version reveal exculpatory facts that a later version has omitted?  If so, wouldn't that be exculpatory under Brady v. Maryland?  Try it out and let me know if you have better luck.

Alex Kozinski and Overcriminalization

Timothy Lynch of the Cato Institute has outdone himself with the latest collection of essays he has compiled.  In In the Name of Justice, "Leading judges and legal scholars explore the state of criminal law today and offer compelling examinations of key issues, including suicide terrorism, drug legalization, and the vast reach of federal criminal liability."  I'm reading Judge Alex Kozinski's essay on overcriminalization entitled, "You're (Probably) a Federal Criminal." 

You may purchase your own copy from or the Cato Store.

Gary Condit and Chandra Levy: Undone by Randomness and Confirmation Bias

Gary Condit was a Congressperson who had an affair with his 23-year-old intern.  He was about to break off the affair.  The intern was upset, and was considering going public with the affair.  Later, Ms. Levy disappeared. 

Gary Condit must have done it, right?  How could he have not?  The narrative makes perfect sense.

Wrong (h/t):

Authorities in Washington, D.C. may be close to an arrest in the murder of former government intern Chandra Levy, a case that made headlines, and brought down a congressman eight years ago.

There are reports that D.C. police have submitted evidence to the U.S. Attorney's Office in an effort to get an arrest warrant for a man identified as Ingmar Guandique.

He's behind bars, convicted of assaulting two women jogging in Washington's Rock Creek Park.

How many narratives make perfect sense?  How often do we see patterns that do not exist?  How often are we fooled by randomness?

Also, might the police have found Ms. Levy's killer earlier if they hadn't concluded that Gary Condit was somehow involved?  What evidence do we overlook once our minds have already been made up, once we've already reached a conclusion? 

I don't pimp books on cognitive bias because I think those books are fun and games.  Some are a collection of graduate-school level articles.  It ain't pop corn for the mind.  An ignorance of the biases that blind our thinking can have devastating effects.  People lose their jobs and go to prison based on simple thinking errors.  

If someone had said, "Hey, maybe we should look at the evidence as if Gary Condit was not involved in Levy's death," maybe they would have found her killer sooner?  How much more damage did Levy's killer cause while investigators focused on Condit? 

Survivalism Non-Sequitur

What is up with morbidly obese white guys stock piling guns and ammo?  I understand having a small concealed-carry pistol, and shot gun, and a survival rifle.  I know guys who are stock piling thousands of rounds of ammo.  Why?  Are things going to get so bad that you'll need an armory?  If that's what you believe, fine.  Consider the implications of that.

If things are so bad that you'll need thousands of rounds of ball ammo, there'll be chaos.  Mobs roaming the street.  Hordes of people running after you, trying to steal your stuff, rape you or your spouse or your kids, etc.  Cars will be flipped over.  They'll be fires everywhere.  The United States will look like the L.A. Riots. 

Thus, you'll also need to walk several dozens of miles to avoid the fires; sprint to find cover from the roving mobs; climb over tipped over cards, trees, and telephone poles;  hike up mountains; climb several flights of stairs; and carry all the guns and bullets you've bought. 

Explain to me, then, how it makes any sense at all to be massively overweight if you really believe that things are going to get so bad that you'll need cases of ammo?

People are weird.